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NEWS CAPSULES

Around the world

EXPLOSION: An explosion in a coal mine owned by the state-run Philippine National Oil Co. killed at least 79 workers in the country's worst mine disaster, officials said Tuesday. The explosion took place Monday evening at the mine about 500 miles south of Manila.ECONOMIC TIES: The prime ministers of Vietnam and South Korea agreed today to strengthen their economic ties and arrange new forms of educational and cultural exchange. The prime minister of South Korea, Lee Young-duk, is the highest-ranked South Korean leader to visit Hanoi since the Vietnam War, when his country sent troops to fight Communist forces.

AID: The United States is considering putting together a major investment package for Northern Ireland if an expected IRA cease-fire is declared and peace returns to the province, the Irish Times reported Tuesday. Quoting official sources in Washington, it said the Clinton administration was looking at putting together a package of between $120 million and $200 million.

Across the nation

RAMPAGE: A 26-year-old man charged with murdering two police officers in St. Paul, Minn., told authorities that if he hadn't stashed away his weapons while trying to flee, he would have killed other officers as well. Guy Harvey Baker was held for $2 million bail on two charges of first-degree murder.

`TOUGH LOVE'? Exxon Corp. deserves a dose of discipline known as "tough love," said a lawyer seeking $15 billion to punish the oil giant for the nation's worst oil spill. But an Exxon lawyer said in his his closing argument that the company has already learned its lesson from the 1989 Exxon Valdez wreck, which spilled nearly 11 million gallons into Prince William Sound.

STANDOFF: An escaped convict in Albany, N.Y., held his 15-year-old girlfriend and infant daughter hostage at knifepoint for 14 hours before authorities sprayed him with pepper gas to end the standoff early Tuesday. Nathaniel Saunders, 21, was due in court this morning. Saunders was serving a 3-to-6-year drug sentence when he walked away from a work detail Monday morning. He took Passion Jones and their daughter, Laquavia Saunders, hostage in Jones' apartment.